Learning the Moonwalk!
How to Moonwalk like Michael Jackson! Take a look at the tips, information and videos below to help you on your way to mastering one of Michaels most amazing dance steps!
Although Michael Jackson hugely popularised the moonwalk, as it is known today, the step is also known as the “backslide”. The moonwalk is actually a slightly different move which is a combination of floating, gliding and sliding, and has a more circular movement, which I like to call the “circle slide”.
Michael Jackson first showcased the moonwalk in his legendary performance of “Billie Jean” in 1983 at the Motown 25th anniversary show. But in actual fact dancers like the legendary Jeffrey Daniel, who subsequently choreographed for Michael Jackson were performing the backslide years earlier. Before that James Brown performed a kind of moonwalk but it was a street dancer called Cooley Jackson who apparently taught Michael Jackson the backslide.
VIDEO ANTHONY PERFORMING MOONWALK!
One of the most impressive backslides was performed in 1955 at the end of a tap sequence by the entertainer Bill Bailey. It is clear though, that although he did not invent it, it was Michael Jackson who has made the move world famous. So I think we should give it a try…here goes!
(At this stage go and have a look at the free online short moonwalk lesson)
Ideally for this move you will need a smooth surface, comfortable trainers or any light shoes and comfortable clothes. Although it is ideal that you have a smooth surface to execute the moonwalk, it can be executed on carpet or pavement or any surface that doesn’t have a substantially high amount of friction (like sand or mud, for example!). Pavement or less is fine. In fact I suggest that you practice on a rougher floor first to get used to the mechanics of the steps and get used to pushing and transferring the weight into the floor so that it is easier when you want to perform or show off the move on the dance floor!
The illusion of this move comes from the execution of the weight transfer, accurately, as opposed to the sliding which is why the moonwalk is classed as a “popping” move and not necessarily a “glide” as it may seem.
Start with your back straight and your feet together pointing forward.
Step 2: “The L position”:
Lift your right leg and place the toes of your right foot down on the floor approximately a foot behind your left leg.
Try and keep a solid stance, so that you can put weight onto your back foot and toes, while keeping your “L” shape stance. You’ll achieve this by varying the position of your back foot in relation to your front. If it’s too close then it might be unstable. Keep a solid L shape!
Step 3: Balance:
If you feel off balance you can increase the width between your legs to create a wider centre of gravity.
Step 4: The slide:
Lean back onto your rear leg and slide the left heal back and into the floor, so that it finishes behind the right leg. At the end of the movement snap the heel of your left foot up, off the floor. It’s important that you keep the heels of your feet at opposite positions and then only snap them and reverse the positions very quickly in one swift step.
The aim, is for one foot to be vertical and the other to be horizontal, and then snap, keeping the form in reverse. Only snap your heel down at the END of the movement. Although this is difficult at first, you’ll get used to it.
Purposefully keep your heel upright, until it’s physically impossible to sustain your L shape because of your weight transfer and heel snap while sliding, push the heel of your foot backwards but most importantly DOWN, into the floor. This is important. The pressure of your heel should push into the floor so that it is an effort to slide the foot backwards.
It is this effort that creates the illusion and the force of the snap. Really focus on pushing your heel into the floor and back rather than just dragging your foot backwards. Again, it’s the up and down thinking and movement that will create the illusion of the move.
The toes of both feet should never come off the floor even if your heels do.
Step 5: The Snap:
As you snap your left heel up off the floor, your right heel should simultaneously snap down on to the floor. This is a solid weight transfer, which is a very quick and heavy movement. It might help if you think of your body movement as “up and down” as opposed to “forward and back”, because the weight transfer is from heel to heel and up and down. Remember to keep your back straight and head and body up right while you carry out this step.
From the finishing position of the last move duplicate the slide on the other foot. It takes time to join up the steps so that they flow. While you practice, it might make sense to pause and rest in between each step. It is an unnatural position and movement, so it takes practice and getting used to as well as getting used to strengthening your feet and toes.
Step 6: The head:
To help to create the illusion of the move, add a head movement. As you slide your leg back slowly move your head forward as if it’s being left behind the movement and then pull it back towards the body as you switch to the other foot.
Really stretch your neck forwards, pushing your chin forward. If you focus on your chin and under neck area, while still keeping head up right, you’ll be able to extend your head further forward. Slowly push forward and pull your neck back with speed, in sync with your legs and the snap.
Step 7 “The arms”:
To make the step look even better, swing your arms as if you’re walking forward normally, while keeping them in time with your leg movements. As your left leg slides back your right arm should swing forward.
It might seem near impossible at first, which is completely normal. Practise the sequence a lot! It takes at least four hours of solid practising just to get used to the concept, but after practice and focusing on your form and stance, you’ll be busting the step everywhere and impressing all your friends and more importantly yourself!
By Anthony King ©